7 Dec 2017

Psałterz Poznański: an interview with Andrzej Polaszek

A complete Polish-language Psalter using the Genevan tunes is on its way. In the meantime, the first fifty psalms have now been published. This is a modified google translation from Polish taken from the website of the Tolle Lege Institute:

Tolle Lege: First of all, congratulations on the release of the first fifty psalms, and we look forward to more. Could you tell us in a few words what the Psałterz Poznański is?

Andrzej Polaszek: Thank you. We are working intensively to make the whole come out in 2020. Psałterz Poznański is a project that aims to renew the custom of singing psalms in evangelical churches and Christian homes. Our intention is to develop a complete set of 150 psalms in contemporary Polish with notes and chords. The Psalter will be accompanied by a number of promotional tools and events: a psalterz.pl website, recordings, concerts, conferences. We hope that our psalms will be included in the repertoire of musicians representing different styles of Christian music.

TL: As a source of melody, you chose the sixteenth-century Genevan Psalter. What is it and why did you decide on these melodies?

AP: The Genevan Psalter was created on the initiative of [John] Calvin and is the best-known sixteenth-century psalter in the world. The Psalms were sung to these melodies in, among other languages, French, English, German, Hungarian and Dutch. At the end of the 16th century, the Rev. Maciej Rybiński, bishop of the Greater Poland Unity (Bohemian Brethren) created the Psalter with the French Melodies in Polish. It has been published over a dozen or so, and it has also been published, along with notes, in some editions of the Gdańsk Bible, which testifies to its wide range and popularity.

We decided to reach for Geneva's melodies because they are beautiful. My wife, looking from the perspective of a musicologist, claims that these are real masterpieces. They have passed the test of time; after several hundred years they are still in use. In addition, they adapt very easily to various styles of music.
When we play them on contemporary instruments and in contemporary arrangements, it is hard to believe that they come from the 16th century.

1 Dec 2017

Die Nuwe Psalmberyming: An Afrikaans-Language Psalter

Not long ago my good friend Lucas Grassi Freire, who translated my first book into Portuguese, sent me a copy of the Nuwe Psalmberyming, a new versification of the 150 Psalms in Afrikaans published in 2001. Much as the Dutch Interkerkelijke Stichting voor de Psalmberijming had had multi-denominational support in revising the texts for the Psalms in 1968, so this project in South Africa was supported by four Reformed church bodies, including the large Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (about 1 million members), the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika (130,000 members), the Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk (35,000 members) and the Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika (100,000 members), the last of which is associated with what used to be called Potchefstroom University west of Johannesburg and which once had a close relationship with the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the former Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland.

Unlike the revised Dutch Psalter of half a century ago, the Nuwe Psalmberyming makes use of other tunes besides those in the 16th-century Genevan Psalter. By my count only 73, or just under half, of the Psalms are sung to Genevan melodies. Three (Psalms 18, 91 and 145) are set to tunes from Strasbourg, Lyon and Lausanne, and are structurally and musically very similar to the Genevan tunes. The remainder of the Psalms are set to other melodies. The vast majority of the texts are the work of the well-known South African writer and poet, T. T. (Theunis Theodorus) Cloete (1924–2015), who, during his life, seems to have become the new Totius, who was the first to set the psalms to verse in Afrikaans some eight decades ago. The texts appear to follow the rhyming schemes used in Geneva, not all of which necessarily work well in other languages. Some of the Psalm texts have two tunes, while some of the Genevan tunes in this collection do not necessarily match the numbered Psalm with which it is paired in the original 1562 psalter.

The visual layout of the Genevan Psalms follows the tradition of the old Dutch psalters whereby the treble clef appears only in the first line but is absent in successive lines. In fact, this is an easy way to tell which of the Psalms uses a Genevan tune and which does not, as seen at left. Moreover, the non-Genevan tunes are divided into conventional measures while the Genevan tunes are not, perhaps reflecting the mediaeval chant notation still familiar in the 16th century.

This collection is powerful evidence that the tradition of singing Genevan psalmody continues to live on at the southern tip of the African continent, though the fact that Afrikaans is not a major world language may limit the spread of of this practice elsewhere in Africa.

14 Nov 2017

Psałterz Dawidów: Psalm 91

Here is a lovely performance of Psalm 91 from the Psałterz Dawidów of Jan Kochanowski and Mikołaj Gomółka:

3 Nov 2017

Psalm 4, Psałterz Poznański

Here is a lovely performance of Genevan Psalm 4 in Polish. This is part of the ongoing Psałterz Poznański project.

24 Oct 2017

Le Psaume des batailles

As we approach the quincentenary of the Reformation, it is good to recall that our Reformed Christian forebears in France, who were subject to persecution throughout the 16th century, adopted for themselves a battle anthem from the biblical Psalter, namely, the 68th Psalm. Here it is sung by unaccompanied unison voices, as it would have been sung at that time:

Psaumes 100 et 138

Two performances of two Psalms by the Ensemble Sweelinck de Genève:

23 Oct 2017

More from the Psałterz Dawidów

A lovely performance of Psalms 127, 22, 91 and 30 from the Psałterz Dawidów, by the Ensemble MORGAINE at the Trigonale 2017 / Festival der alten Musik, 2 September 2017, St Georgen am Längsee, Austria.

20 Oct 2017

Psalm 11, Jan Kochanowski

The Psałterz Dawidów is a Polish metrical psalter translated and versified by Jan Kochanowski and published in 1579. Here are two renditions of Psalm 11 from that collection, the first set to the associated music of Mikołaj Gomółka, and the second set to an apparently more recent composition.

The lyrics can be found here.

17 Sep 2017

Everhard on liturgical psalters

Here is a nice survey of three liturgical psalters by Presbyterian pastor Matthew Everhard:

Here are the links to the three psalters he describes: